Iraq forces at­tack IS out­post ahead of drive up Euphrates

The Freeman - - WORLD -

BAGH­DAD — Iraqi forces at­tacked a desert out­post of the Is­lamic State group near the Syr­ian bor­der yes­ter­day in prepa­ra­tion for a drive up the Euphrates Val­ley towards the fron­tier, com­man­ders said.

The as­sault tar­geted the for­mer min­ing town of Akashat, in mainly Sunni Arab An­bar prov­ince some 100 kilo­me­ters (60 miles) south of the jihadists' bor­der bas­tion of Al-Qaim.

Al-Qaim and the Euphrates towns of Rawa and Anna down­stream form just one of two en­claves still held by IS in Iraq af­ter a string of bat­tle­field de­feats this year.

"The army, the Hashed al-Shaabi (Pop­u­lar Mo­bil­i­sa­tion force) and the bor­der guard launched a ma­jor op­er­a­tion to lib­er­ate Akasha t... and se­cure the bor­der to its north," said the head of Joint Oper­a­tions Com­mand, Gen­eral Ab­de­lamir Yar­al­lah.

The Hashed al-Shaabi are a para­mil­i­tary force largely com­posed of Iran-trained Shi­ite mili­tias but also in­clud­ing some fight­ers re­cruited from Sunni tribes.

Iraqi com­man­ders es­ti­mate there are no more than 300 civil­ian fam­i­lies left in Akashat, a for­mer rail­head that was once a ma­jor source of phos­phate pro­duc­tion.

Imed Me­shaal, mayor of Rutba, a desert town fur­ther south re­cap­tured from IS last year, told AFP the jihadists had turned the area into a ma­jor hub for arms caches, train­ing camps and com­mand cen­tres.

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